N.C. legislative map trial begins in Raleigh

N.C. legislative map trial begins in Raleigh
April 14
00:00 2016



RALEIGH, N.C. —A federal court ruled two months ago Republican legislators weren’t legally justified in turning two North Carolina congressional boundaries into majority-black districts and ordered new lines.

Another panel of three federal judges has convened a weeklong trial deciding whether close to 30 of the 170 state House and Senate districts approved almost five years ago by the General Assembly also are illegal racial gerrymanders and must be redrawn.

The trial started on Monday, April 11.

Voters in the challenged districts who sued make largely the same arguments that won out in February’s separate congressional litigation. They say legislators created too many minority-majority districts when evidence shows black voters have been able to elect their preferred candidates in districts when their voting-age population was well below 50 percent.

The congressional district ruling forced lawmakers to quickly redraw the map and delay the March congressional primary until June. It’s unclear whether, if the legislative plaintiffs are successful, new bound-aries would be ordered for this year.

The three-judge panel in Monday’s trial – U.S. District Judges Thomas Schroeder and Catherine Eagles and U.S. Circuit Judge Jim Wynn – refused last fall to stop this year’s legislative elections while the case was being heard. Should the judges rule for the plaintiffs, state attorneys wrote they should delay requiring any changes in the maps until the 2018 elections. General Assembly primary races already were held in March.

The current General Assembly boundaries used in 2012 and 2014 helped Republicans pad their seat advantages over Democrats. Redrawn districts could threaten their veto-proof majorities and ability to unilaterally pass legislation.

Attorneys for the state and for legislative leaders defending the maps again take the view race didn’t control how they drew the nine Senate and 19 House maps. Those who sued “are attempting to impose impossible legal obligations” on mapmakers, Alec Peters and Tom Farr wrote in the state’s pretrial filing.

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